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Physical Frailty Could Predict Alzheimer's Disease
Date:8/13/2008

Waning of strength, agility tied to brain damage, even in the absence of dementia

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Physical frailty among the elderly may be linked to early Alzheimer's disease, regardless of whether or not patients develop dementia, new research reveals.

The finding, based on brain autopsies of deceased elderly patients, raises the notion that motor impairment in the elderly is an early symptom of Alzheimer's -- one that appears before mental decline.

It could also turn out to be that frailty and Alzheimer's are not directly linked but stem from a common origin, researchers say.

"What we know is that if you see a very frail person next to somebody not so frail, the very frail person is more likely to have Alzheimer's pathology in their brain when they die," said study lead author Dr. Aron S. Buchman, an associate professor in the department of neurological sciences at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

"This is important as we try to wrap our heads around the biology of aging," he added. "Because it turns out that as you get older Alzheimer's pathology, signs of its development are really ubiquitous, even if that doesn't mean that you actually have dementia. So, this finding could alter the way most medical and non-medical people conceptualize Alzheimer's -- as a disease simply of impaired memory and cognition -- while expanding our view of what it actually means to become frail."

Buchman and his colleagues were expected to publish their findings in the Aug. 12 issue of Neurology.

Prior studies have indicated that about 7 percent of men and women over the age of 65 are frail, meaning they display a significant loss of strength, energy, and agility. That figure rises to 45 percent among people over the age of 85, the researchers said.

In the new study, the Chicago group looked for the presence of the microscopic protein "plaques and tangle
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